My Vintage Inspired Red Tartan DressYay! It's my first sewing review for my blog. :) I realize that this post is long overdue. I've been struggling these last few weeks to complete my dress and finish taking photographs. Well, it's finally here! I hope you enjoy it and that perhaps it might inspire your next sewing project.
I began sewing this pattern when it was considerably warmer outside and I was in desperate need of another summer dress. After gaining some undesirable weight, I was left with fewer pairs of shorts and dresses that covered my behind. So I rummaged through my pattern stash and I settled on Simplicity 2757, a dress pattern that I had intended to try out years ago.
Simplicity 2757 is an Arkivestry pattern. Don't feel bad if you don't know who Arkivestry is, I didn't know anything about them until these patterns came out. Arkivestry is a design label that has specialized in Gothic and Victorian clothing since the 1980's. In 2008, Arkivestry designed a handful of Gothic and alternative sewing patterns for Simplicity. They started off with these four patterns but have since created two more Steampunk inspired patterns and one dog costume. The majority of these patterns are still available for order through Simplicity's website.
You will find the Arkivestry patterns listed under the costume category. Unfortunately, Simplicity does not consider Goth to be an actual style, therefore they don't feature Goth or Steampunk patterns under the regular apparel categories in the catalog. I guess their stuffy consumer base may struggle with the idea that there's more to fashion than boring, functional clothing with built in modesty panels...
Whatever, fuck 'em.
On the pattern envelope this garment is simply described as a Misses' costume. The instructions reveal it's meant to be worn as an overdress. The illustrations and photograph on the envelope do not make this explicitly clear. In fact, Look B really looks like a dress to me. It's not until you buy the pattern and open it up that you realize it's more like a tunic. This additional photograph (pictured above on the left) does a much better job of showing how the garment is worn. Unfortunately this photo was not featured in the catalog that I looked through, so I had no idea when I bought the pattern that it wasn't a dress. I also thought that the skirt in Look D was included in the pattern but it isn't. Look D is only meant to demonstrate that you can sew the bodice as a standalone garment.
The illustrations are misleading in another way; they show the bottom of the bodice as sitting above the hips when in reality it sits just beneath the waistline. This was a huge drag for me because I wanted the bodice to end closer to the hips. The bodice could be drafted to look that way, however, I decided not to do that because I had a limited amount of material to work with.
For this project, I really wanted my dress to look vintage and kind of punky. I remember when I was little I saw this hot Goth chick at the mall with a ferret, she was wearing a tartan dress and I desperately wanted it. Of course being only ten years old, my mother would have never allowed it. I'm happy to finally have my tartan dress! Take that mom!!
You may have noticed some differences between my final garment and the pattern illustration. Obviously I got creative and made some significant alterations but it's nothing that you couldn't do yourself. First, I added a zipper to the back of the dress. To do this I added additional seam allowances to the two back pieces. I then joined the front bodice pieces together. I omitted the front bodice band and replaced it with my own homemade eyelet tape. I wanted to create the look of a faux lace up bodice. I then drafted a skirt to gather and sew onto the basque (v-shaped) waistline. I decided to use single fold bias tape to finish my edges instead of sewing a lining (I was afraid that the lining would make my garment too bulky). Originally I had some exposed zippers sewn onto the front of the dress but these proved to be too heavy for my chosen material. I used a lightweight woven tartan which is perfect for this in-between fall weather!
What did I like about this pattern?
First off, it is a relatively easy pattern to sew. There's nothing major to accomplish here, you just need to have a basic understanding of sewing. The pattern involves assembling a lining, punching eyelets and reinforcing the front bodice piece. There is also the option to embellish the garment with a decorative trim. I think this is the perfect pattern if you haven't sewn a dress or bodice before and are ready to give it a shot. The instructions are easy to follow.
I like that Simplicity took the chance on producing an alternative sewing pattern, even if it is categorized as a 'costume'. I think this is a good pattern for Baby Bats because it's simplified and it could be adjusted to suit whatever your style is. I think this overdress could be paired with other patterns from the Arkivestry collection to look more Victorian or Boho, or you could draft something entirely different. This pattern has lots of potential, you just have to use your imagination.
What did I dislike about this pattern?
It's a good thing that this pattern has such great potential because the design itself is boring. When I bought the pattern I already knew I wanted to make significant design changes. The overall look of this garment is rather dated. The illustrations on the envelope look very 1990's, even their shoes look 90's! The first fabric that they recommend you use is crushed velvet - now that's old school. Unless you're really into the traditional or romantic Goth scene, you might think this pattern is a little cheesy. The inverted scalloped edge is a cool idea in theory but in reality it comes across as costumey (sort of like those weird cardigans that have bat wings sewn in the armpits). After reviewing the Arkivestry portfolio I found that the majority of their designs are more romantic, which isn't my personal aesthetic. So again, it's great if you're into that sort of thing but I was hoping for a more modern design aesthetic.
The other thing that I didn't like about this pattern was the front bodice band. This is the decorative piece where the overdress laces up. I just don't like how the front bodice band looks. I knew something about it was off when I first saw the overdress illustrations. This became even more apparent when I looked at other reviews of this pattern. For some weird reason they designed the bodice band as being curved inward and tapering towards the top of the bodice (as shown in the diagram below). In my opinion, this inward curve conflicts with the curve of the bust seams. The bust seams are pointing outwards and the bodice band is being pinched inwards, giving the bodice this unnecessary bulky appearance. I can't for the life of me understand why they would design it that way, instead of making the band straight. In my dress I replaced the front bodice band with my own eyelet tape and ran it parallel to the center seam.
What did I learn?Plaid and princess seams do not work well together! What a nightmare. This is something that I really struggled with when sewing my dress. Maybe one day I'll make a tutorial on cutting pattern pieces out of tartan, but for now I'll give this simple piece of advice: align all seams using the horizontal stripes of the tartan as a guide. If all of your stripes line up horizontally it will look harmonious - even if your vertical stripes aren't perfectly aligned! The other thing I learned is how to draft a gathered skirt for a basque (v-shaped) waist, which wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. : )
What would I change if I could sew it again?If I sew it again I will sew it with the lining and use a sturdier material for the bodice. I might even use boning for a stronger structure. I will probably widen the straps because I think they're too skinny for the overall construction of this bodice. I will definitely add length to the bodice and have it cut closer to my hips. I might consider reducing the size of the garment, or take in the waist seams, as there appears to be some excess material in the midsection of my dress (I'm not certain as to whether that's a design flaw or an error in the fitting process).
Overall I think it's a lovely dress and an easy pattern to make. It could be a great wardrobe builder. You could adapt this overdress into a sundress, the bodice into a vest; oh hell! I can even see the bare bones of a Lolita dress somewhere in there. You're only limited by your imagination! If you have this pattern available to you I encourage you to give it a try. :)